Saturday, September 21, 2013

Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon"

Watched this 1950 film last Tuesday, and was wowed by it. I prefer Seven Samurai, but can totally understand why someone may think that Rashomon is the greater film. Essentially a crime drama, it provokes big philosophical questions about the nature of truth. A samurai (Masayuki Mori) is killed and his wife is raped, but those are the only agreed-upon facts in the four tellings of the story. In three of the four versions--by the woman (Machiko Kyô), the bandit (Toshirô Mifune) who raped her, and the dead man speaking through a medium--the teller confesses to the killing. Each version also sheds light on the character of the teller, and why he or she wishes to incriminate himself or herself.

The fourth version is by a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) who revises his initial story to reveal that he was an eyewitness to the murder, but lied to hide his theft of the samurai's dagger. The three other confessions are further complicated by the fact that they were retold by the woodcutter to a commoner under the ruined gateway called Rashomon. The first words of the film "I just don't understand this story" also describe the viewer's reaction at the end of it, but that reaction is coupled with a tremendous impression of the subjectivity of truth, and our capacity for self-deception.

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